Sometimes I get philosophical about the idea of service and what does it really mean. Is doing our job well the same thing as serving our clients well? I think that most of the time the answer is yes. Clients hire us to sell their homes, doing that quickly and for the highest possible price is the same thing as good service.
The occasional disconnect is the difference between filling their transactional need, which earns us a paycheck, and filling their emotional need, which earns us an advocate for life. So, what does this look like?
1) Strong communication. Even if you are doing things beyond what any other agent has ever done for their clients, if they aren’t aware of it they can’t appreciate it! Do something and tell them you did it. Always keep them informed of what is going on. This is the number one complaint that people tell the National Association of Realtors when they do surveys – they want to be communicated with more.
2) Listen. There are some things that always make up good service, but there are many pieces that you just need to ask the client what good service looks like to them. Do they like to talk on the phone, get emails, or text? It doesn’t matter your communication preference, listen to theirs. Do they want to maximize sales price with staging or would they rather take a bit less and sell it as-is? What’s most important to them? What are their expectations of the experience? And then ask another question, and take notes. Then ask another, and then another. Taking notes let’s them know that you heard them and are paying attention.
3) Be the expert. When people start getting frustrated that their home hasn’t sold yet, they start giving you marketing ideas. However, they don’t actually want to be the one with the ideas, they want you to do that. Tell them your marketing plan, why it works, and then make sure they know if it’s not working it’s because of pricing.
These are big areas that are easy to talk about but take diligence to actually do consistently. But it is worth doing!
I recently attended a conference where Jon Gordon was speaking. Both from stage and in his book “Training Camp” he talked about the idea of being 10% better than everyone else. The difference between someone who is adequate and someone who is amazing isn’t about the touchdown or the hole in one (to use sports terminology), it’s about doing all the little things over time 10%, 5%, or even 1% better than everyone else. He says “Interestingly enough, for all their greatness, the best aren’t that much better than other. They are simply a little better at a lot of things. Everyone thinks success is complicated, but it’s really simple. In fact, the best don’t do anything different. They just do the ordinary things better.”
This concept resonated with me. How can we serve our clients just a little bit better. It caused me to break down our processes of how we serve buyers, how we serve sellers, how we serve our agents and then ask the question: how can we do ordinary things better?
Ask yourself the same questions:
– How can we educate clients better on what to expect?
– How can we make sure they are connected with the best vendors?
– How can we negotiate on their behalf better?
– How do we serve them after closing?
Everyday, approach your day asking the question: where can I get 10% better? This slight increase will lead to big results!
I have many things in my life that I wish came easier. I know intellectually the positive affect on my life it would have if I would do those things. I’m sure you know what I mean: floss more often, drink more water, make more calls, etc. There are many behaviors where I know that if I did them consistently I would be more successful, healthier, and happier. As Jim Rohn says “Some things are easy to do, but they’re also easy not to do.”
In preparing for this month’s lunch and learn on how to create habits that support success in all areas of life, I came across the concept of Tiny Habits, as presented by BJ Fogg. You can watch his entire Ted Talk by clicking here. The idea is to take willpower out of the equation as much as you can by introducing small behaviors that are easy to do. Once these small behaviors become a habit they are easy to add on to and it grows.
The habit hack that he recommends are 3 simple steps:
1) Start really small. When I say small, I mean extremely small. So easy that even if you’re tired and pressed for time you will do it. For example, if you want to drink more water take the tiny step of putting a glass of water on your desk.
2) Identify a trigger. Tie your new small habit to something you already have in your routine. Choose something in your routine that you do with the same frequency as you’d like to do the new behavior. Is this something you’ll do once or five times a day? The formula is “After I ________ then I _________.”
3) Celebrate the good behavior. This doesn’t need to be big, but it does need to be immediate. You can give yourself a thumbs up, do a victory dance, say to yourself “You rock!”, say out loud “yay me!”, or imagine a roaring crowd cheering you on. This positive reinforcement, no matter how small, is fun and let’s your brain know that this was a good thing to do and you should do it again. Reinforcing this behavior makes it easier to do and therefore easier to build on.
So, what’s the tiny behavior that you will start with? What is the small step that will help you move you forward?
We all know that not every person is built the same way. We say things like “Thats just how they are.” Or “I’m just not that type of person who enjoys that.” Even though there is some things about personality where you know that we don’t all function the same way, we still tend to treat people as if they think like we do. We do customer service the way that we would want to receive it. However, if we recognize that customer service is not one size fits all then we can do it better. If we recognize that not everyone has the same emotional need, them we are able to better meet the emotional need of the person we are currently serving.
Let’s just acknowledge that we are all individuals. Like snowflakes, there are not two the same. What we are about to talk about is ways to give a framework to give quick insights to the way that people respond to situations and decisions. There are many assessment tools for evaluating personality types, but the one that I am going to focus on today is the DISC. Most people are a combination of all 4, higher in some than others. We are not going to get into the nuance of the combinations, instead we will just focus on characteristics of people who are highest in one of the 4 categories.
D – Dominance. This person is fast paced and task driven. The can make decisions quickly and are most concerned about being effective.
I – Influence. This person is also fast paced but more people focused. They love to have fun and be social. They are most concerned about being liked.
S – Steadiness. This person is slower paced and people focused. They are someone you would describe as really nice and agreeable. They dislike change and value acceptance and security.
C – Conscientious. This person is very thorough and contemplative. They do all their research first and fear making a poor decision because they didn’t take the time to get all the facts. They value accuracy and precision.
You can quickly see that the needs of a D who wants things fast and effective “Just bottom line this thing for me” is going to be much different from a C who wants every piece of research lined up and explained. Our job is to see those needs and cater to them. If your personality style is different from theirs this may not come naturally to you, but if you take the time to pay attention and use the DISC as a tool for understanding where they are coming from, you will both have a better experience.
My husband and I thought that we began investing in real estate in 2003 when we purchased our first duplex. The truth is, we first invested in real estate when we purchased our first home in 1999. At that very moment we began building our net worth by owning an asset that increases in value, and every month paying down a little bit of principal. The key concept there is that a little bit done consistently turns into quite a bit!
The average net worth of someone who rents their home is about $5,000. The average net worth of a homeowner is about $230,000. So that little bit every month really adds up! The reason for this is because you have two things working in your favor: appreciation and debt reduction. If you put 10% down on a house, the magic is that a 1% appreciation on a $200,000 is $2,000. However, if you calculate your return from the down payment of $20,000 a 1% appreciation rate is a 10% return on your money! That’s what we call leverage.
Why I am talking about homeownership when this is supposed to be about rental property? I wanted to first sell you on the idea that owning real estate is a very smart thing to do. Leverage and appreciation make sure of that. But with rental property you get something that makes this even better: monthly cash flow. Even if your cash flow is minimal, your tenant is paying your mortgage so that you enjoy the reduced mortgage amount and the appreciation on the property.
Build wealth by buying rental property, start today!
Did you know that when people hire an assistant they often DOUBLE their production?
I can hear you saying “C’mon. I can see where my quality of life would improve, but double?”
Ok, the truth of the matter is that your production doubling is a very, very real and common occurrence when people get the administrative help that they need. The catch is that when you’re freed up from doing these tasks that you can delegate, your production only doubles if you use that time to follow up with leads more consistently and on proactive lead generation activities. Have you been meaning to make your phone calls but just couldn’t get to it? Has someone mentioned a need but you didn’t try as hard as you could’ve to connect because you’re already so overwhelmed?
If you think about the income producing tasks that you’ve let go to the wayside because there was time sensitive paperwork that needed to be shuffled, you will get an assistant immediately.
And, you’re right, your quality of life does improve.
Don’t be scared. Take that leap!
I (Julie) have hired and worked with many assistants and learned a lot about what to do and what to avoid in that process and I’m here to help you through it!
Many people understand the importance of referrals to their business. NAR research shows us that upwards of 80% of people hired a real estate agent because they were referred to them. 80%! This is much too big of a number to either ignore or not handle intentionally. Besides waiting for people to remember you and waiting by your phone, what else can you do to generate referral business?
1) Customer Service is king.
The foundation to getting referrals is giving people an experience that they would want their friends and family to have. Having customer service systems in place to make sure this is happening, and constantly fine tuning this, is critical. All the other things you do fall apart if this isn’t in place. Obviously, this is a topic unto itself. We will talk more about ways to not only increase your service, but also the perception of the client of their experience in future blogs.
2) Have a database.
Do you have a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, kids’ names, and anything else that is important to your client somewhere? The importance of having a list of people who know you and you know them cannot be over emphasized. Whether you are one day in the business or three decades doesn’t matter. Consistently being in touch is what matters.
3) Be consistent.
Your success in real estate depends upon the number of people who when they think of real estate, they think of you. The only way to be in their mind as the resource for real estate is to be in contact with them on a consistent basis. The more personal the touch, the more powerful it is. Consistency is very difficult without systems. Our system is to send out something in the mail on the 1st and something via email on the 15th. We also have regular times that we send out personal notes, or that we call them. The more you can make the next step automatic, the more likely it is that you will be consistently in touch. The more you are in contact, the more they know you care, the more they are willing to refer you.
This is a very rich topic and one that I am sure we will be talking more about in the future. Service and Systems are the theme here and we will dive deeper into both of those at our next Lunch and Learn. I hope you can join us!
Staying out of trouble with the IRS?
Real estate agents are notoriously in trouble with their taxes. There are a couple reasons for this:
- We don’t have any withholdings taken out of our commissions. If you were an employee with a “real job” then your employer would be taking out withholdings for the amount you owe for federal, state, local, and Social Security/Medicare. However, we are self-employed. So, outof our own self-discipline, we need to set aside money to keep up with taxes.
- We pay self-employment tax. When you’re an employee you have social security and Medicare taken out of your check. Your employer matches this amount before sending to the IRS. When you’re self-employed then YOU are matching the amount. Everything that you make (after deductions) is subject to a 15.3% self employment tax. Then you pay your income tax on top of that. That’s a decent chunk of money so don’t forget about it!
So, how do you stay out of trouble?
The way the IRS keeps employees out of trouble is they require their employer to withhold taxes on their behalf. It’s not optional. Something to consider would be asking your broker if they would take a percentage of every closing and put it to a separate account (at Clarity Realty we are glad to do that). Since it’s taken off the top you never see it and aren’t tempted to spend it, and the money is available when your quarterly estimates come due.
The IRS is someone you don’t want to be in debt to, so hopefully this will help you to keep in front of it.
December is a time of reflection on the year behind us. Remembering the good and bad and then taking what we’ve learned to make the next year even better. I believe that it is so important to take that time to slow down and remember everything you did right (so easy to dwell on things that went wrong but what we did right is just as important!) and then build on that for the next year.
It’s very hard to plan for what exact sales you’ll have, but you can certainly plan for what marketing you want to do and then get that on your calendar. I love to do events. Staying in
touch with my best clients by throwing them a party is so much fun for both me and them, and it’s great for business! For me, events fall into two different categories:
- Business mixers – my business partners tend to be the most connected people and they
understand the importance of receiving referrals. The more I can do to introduce them to people that can also help them, the more they are thankful for me and want to reciprocate.
- Client parties – showing my gratitude to those who have done business with me or referred me over the years by throwing them a party is so amazing for my business. People can tell that I am genuinely thankful for them and it makes them feel good to give back because they feel appreciated.
Depending on your role these might change a little, but the general concept remains the same. Throwing a party is fun and good for business – a win win!
Having done this for a while, the way that I’ve learned to get the best attendance is to be a little bit on the obnoxious side. Everyone is busy and it’s so easy to lose track of time. Sometimes I feel like I’m being obnoxious, but my clients always say “I’m so glad you called, when is your party again? I know I got an invitation but I don’t know where it ended up.” Everyone wants to be bothered when it’s about going to a party! So, here are the steps that I have used.
- Pick a date. This date should be at least 6 weeks away if you can.
- Put together an invitation list. Can be done after step 3, but don’t procrastinate too long! This step can take more time than you’d think if you don’t have all the contact information you need.
- Design an invitation. We tend to send postcards, but it depends on the event. Send it to get printed.
- Mail the invitations so that those being invited receive it about 3 weeks before the event.
- Shortly after they receive the mailed invitations, also send an email invitation.
- Call behind the invitation and make sure they saw it and that they know they are invited because of how much you appreciate them. This is the true power of the event – personal interaction with your clients. Whether they can make it or not isn’t the point, what is going on with their lives and how can you help is the point.
- The day before text all those who have RSVPed to remind them of the time and location.
- Enjoy the party!
- The day after send thank you notes to all who attended. Mention things that you may have talked about to solidify how important they are to you and that you were paying attention to your conversation.
As we get into 2018 this is a great time to get out your calendar and pick out the events that you would like to do and put them in first, before other things crowd them out.
Let’s have a fun and gratitude filled 2018!